An excreted small molecule promotes C. elegans reproductive development and aging.
ABSTRACT: Excreted small-molecule signals can bias developmental trajectories and physiology in diverse animal species. However, the chemical identity of these signals remains largely obscure. Here we report identification of an unusual N-acylated glutamine derivative, nacq#1, that accelerates reproductive development and shortens lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. Produced predominantly by C. elegans males, nacq#1 hastens onset of sexual maturity in hermaphrodites by promoting exit from the larval dauer diapause and by accelerating late larval development. Even at picomolar concentrations, nacq#1 shortens hermaphrodite lifespan, suggesting a trade-off between reproductive investment and longevity. Acceleration of development by nacq#1 requires chemosensation and is dependent on three homologs of vertebrate steroid hormone receptors. Unlike ascaroside pheromones, which are restricted to nematodes, fatty acylated amino acid derivatives similar to nacq#1 have been reported from humans and invertebrates, suggesting that related compounds may serve signaling functions throughout metazoa.
Project description:Environmental conditions experienced during animal development are thought to have sustained impact on maturation and adult lifespan. Here we show that in the model organism C. elegans developmental rate and adult lifespan depend on larval population density, and that this effect is mediated by excreted small molecules. By using the time point of first egg laying as a marker for full maturity, we found that wildtype hermaphrodites raised under high density conditions developed significantly faster than animals raised in isolation. Population density-dependent acceleration of development (Pdda) was dramatically enhanced in fatty acid ?-oxidation mutants that are defective in the biosynthesis of ascarosides, small-molecule signals that induce developmental diapause. In contrast, Pdda is abolished by synthetic ascarosides and steroidal ligands of the nuclear hormone receptor DAF-12. We show that neither ascarosides nor any known steroid hormones are required for Pdda and that another chemical signal mediates this phenotype, in part via the nuclear hormone receptor NHR-8. Our results demonstrate that C. elegans development is regulated by a push-pull mechanism, based on two antagonistic chemical signals: chemosensation of ascarosides slows down development, whereas population-density dependent accumulation of a different chemical signal accelerates development. We further show that the effects of high larval population density persist through adulthood, as C. elegans larvae raised at high densities exhibit significantly reduced adult lifespan and respond differently to exogenous chemical signals compared to larvae raised at low densities, independent of density during adulthood. Our results demonstrate how inter-organismal signaling during development regulates reproductive maturation and longevity.
Project description:Lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila, and mice is regulated by conserved signaling networks, including the insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) signaling cascade and pathways depending on sirtuins, a family of NAD(+)-dependent deacetylases. Small molecules such as resveratrol are of great interest because they increase lifespan in many species in a sirtuin-dependent manner. However, no endogenous small molecules that regulate lifespan via sirtuins have been identified, and the mechanisms underlying sirtuin-dependent longevity are not well understood. Here, we show that in C. elegans, two endogenously produced small molecules, the dauer-inducing ascarosides ascr#2 and ascr#3, regulate lifespan and stress resistance through chemosensory pathways and the sirtuin SIR-2.1. Ascarosides extend adult lifespan and stress resistance without reducing fecundity or feeding rate, and these effects are reduced or abolished when nutrients are restricted. We found that ascaroside-mediated longevity is fully abolished by loss of SIR-2.1 and that the effect of ascr#2 requires expression of the G protein-coupled receptor DAF-37 in specific chemosensory neurons. In contrast to many other lifespan-modulating factors, ascaroside-mediated lifespan increases do not require insulin signaling via the FOXO homolog DAF-16 or the insulin/IGF-1-receptor homolog DAF-2. Our study demonstrates that C. elegans produces specific small molecules to control adult lifespan in a sirtuin-dependent manner, supporting the hypothesis that endogenous regulation of metazoan lifespan functions, in part, via sirtuins. These findings strengthen the link between chemosensory inputs and conserved mechanisms of lifespan regulation in metazoans and suggest a model for communal lifespan regulation in C. elegans.
Project description:Ascarosides are small-molecule signals that play a central role in C. elegans biology, including dauer formation, aging, and social behaviors, but many aspects of their biosynthesis remain unknown. Using automated 2D NMR-based comparative metabolomics, we identified ascaroside ethanolamides as shunt metabolites in C. elegans mutants of daf-22, a gene with homology to mammalian 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolases predicted to function in conserved peroxisomal lipid ?-oxidation. Two groups of ethanolamides feature ?-keto functionalization confirming the predicted role of daf-22 in ascaroside biosynthesis, whereas ?-methyl substitution points to unexpected inclusion of methylmalonate at a late stage in the biosynthesis of long-chain fatty acids in C. elegans. We show that ascaroside ethanolamide formation in response to defects in daf-22 and other peroxisomal genes is associated with severe depletion of endocannabinoid pools. These results indicate unexpected interaction between peroxisomal lipid ?-oxidation and the biosynthesis of endocannabinoids, which are major regulators of lifespan in C. elegans. Our study demonstrates the utility of unbiased comparative metabolomics for investigating biochemical networks in metazoans.
Project description:Biological sex, a fundamental dimension of internal state, can modulate neural circuits to generate behavioral variation. Understanding how and why circuits are tuned by sex can provide important insights into neural and behavioral plasticity. Here we find that sexually dimorphic behavioral responses to C. elegans ascaroside sex pheromones are implemented by the functional modulation of shared chemosensory circuitry. In particular, the sexual state of a single sensory neuron pair, ADF, determines the nature of an animal's behavioral response regardless of the sex of the rest of the body. Genetic feminization of ADF causes males to be repelled by, rather than attracted to, ascarosides, whereas masculinization of ADF has the opposite effect in hermaphrodites. When ADF is ablated, both sexes are weakly repelled by ascarosides. Genetic sex modulates ADF function by tuning chemosensation: although ADF is functional in both sexes, it detects the ascaroside ascr#3 only in males, a consequence of cell-autonomous action of the master sexual regulator tra-1. This occurs in part through the conserved DM-domain gene mab-3, which promotes the male state of ADF. The sexual modulation of ADF has a key role in reproductive fitness, as feminization or ablation of ADF renders males unable to use ascarosides to locate mates. Our results reveal an economical mechanism in which sex-specific behavioral valence arises through the cell-autonomous regulation of a chemosensory switch by genetic sex, allowing a social cue with salience for both sexes to elicit navigational responses commensurate with the differing needs of each.
Project description:Mechanisms that control aging are important yet poorly defined. To discover longevity control genes, we performed a forward genetic screen for delayed reproductive aging in C. elegans. Here, we show that am117 is a nonsense mutation in the phm-2 gene, which encodes a protein homologous to human scaffold attachment factor B. phm-2(lf) mutant worms have an abnormal pharynx grinder, which allows live bacteria to accumulate in the intestine. This defect shortens lifespan on highly pathogenic bacteria but extends lifespan and health span on the standard E. coli diet by activating innate immunity pathways that lead to bacterial avoidance behavior and dietary restriction. eat-2(lf) mutants displayed a similar phenotype, indicating accumulation of live bacteria also triggers extended longevity in this mutant. The analysis of phm-2 elucidates connections between pathogen response and aging by defining a mechanism of longevity extension in C. elegans-bacterial colonization, innate immune activation, and bacterial avoidance behavior.
Project description:Caenorhabditis elegans produces ascaroside pheromones to control its development and behavior. Even minor structural differences in the ascarosides have dramatic consequences for their biological activities. Here, we identify a mechanism that enables C. elegans to dynamically tailor the fatty-acid side chains of the indole-3-carbonyl (IC)-modified ascarosides it has produced. In response to starvation, C. elegans uses the peroxisomal acyl-CoA synthetase ACS-7 to activate the side chains of medium-chain IC-ascarosides for ?-oxidation involving the acyl-CoA oxidases ACOX-1.1 and ACOX-3. This pathway rapidly converts a favorable ascaroside pheromone that induces aggregation to an unfavorable one that induces the stress-resistant dauer larval stage. Thus, the pathway allows the worm to respond to changing environmental conditions and alter its chemical message without having to synthesize new ascarosides de novo. We establish a new model for biosynthesis of the IC-ascarosides in which side-chain ?-oxidation is critical for controlling the type of IC-ascarosides produced.
Project description:The FOXO transcription factor family is a conserved regulator of longevity and the downstream target of insulin/insulin-like signaling. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the FOXO ortholog DAF-16A and D/F isoforms extend lifespan in daf-2 insulin-like receptor mutants. Here we identify the DAF-21/Hsp90 chaperone as a longevity regulator. We find that reducing DAF-21 capacity by daf-21(RNAi) initiated either at the beginning or at the end of larval development shortens wild-type lifespan. daf-21 knockdown employed from the beginning of larval development also decreases longevity of daf-2 mutant and daf-2 silenced nematodes. daf-16 loss-of-function mitigates the lifespan shortening effect of daf-21 silencing. We demonstrate that DAF-21 specifically promotes daf-2 and heat-shock induced nuclear translocation of DAF-16A as well as the induction of DAF-16A-specific mRNAs, without affecting DAF-16D/F localization and transcriptional function. DAF-21 is dispensable for the stability and nuclear import of DAF-16A, excluding a chaperone-client interaction and suggesting that DAF-21 regulates DAF-16A activation upstream of its cellular traffic. Finally, we show a selective requirement for DAF-21 to extend lifespan of DAF-16A, but not DAF-16D/F, transgenic daf-2 mutant strains. Our findings indicate a spatiotemporal determination of multiple DAF-21 roles in fertility, development and longevity and reveal an isoform-specific regulation of DAF-16 activity.
Project description:The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans secretes ascarosides, structurally diverse derivatives of the 3,6-dideoxysugar ascarylose, and uses them in chemical communication. At high population densities, specific ascarosides, which are together known as the dauer pheromone, trigger entry into the stress-resistant dauer larval stage. In order to study the structure-activity relationships for the ascarosides, we synthesized a panel of ascarosides and tested them for dauer-inducing activity. This panel includes a number of natural ascarosides that were detected in crude pheromone extract, but as yet have no assigned function, as well as many unnatural ascaroside derivatives. Most of these ascarosides, some of which have significant structural similarity to the natural dauer pheromone components, have very little dauer-inducing activity. Our results provide a primer to ascaroside structure-activity relationships and suggest that slight modifications to ascaroside structure dramatically influence binding to the relevant G protein-coupled receptors that control dauer formation.
Project description:In Caenorhabditis elegans, the dauer pheromone, which consists of a number of derivatives of the 3,6-dideoxysugar ascarylose, is the primary cue for entry into the stress-resistant, "nonaging" dauer larval stage. Here, using activity-guided fractionation and NMR-based structure elucidation, a structurally novel, indole-3-carboxyl-modified ascaroside is identified that promotes dauer formation at low nanomolar concentrations but inhibits dauer formation at higher concentrations.
Project description:Caenorhabditis elegans uses ascaroside pheromones to induce development of the stress-resistant dauer larval stage and to coordinate various behaviors. Peroxisomal ?-oxidation cycles are required for the biosynthesis of the fatty acid-derived side chains of the ascarosides. Here we show that three acyl-CoA oxidases, which catalyze the first step in these ?-oxidation cycles, form different protein homo- and heterodimers with distinct substrate preferences. Mutations in the acyl-CoA oxidase genes acox-1, -2, and -3 led to specific defects in ascaroside production. When the acyl-CoA oxidases were expressed alone or in pairs and purified, the resulting acyl-CoA oxidase homo- and heterodimers displayed different side-chain length preferences in an in vitro activity assay. Specifically, an ACOX-1 homodimer controls the production of ascarosides with side chains with nine or fewer carbons, an ACOX-1/ACOX-3 heterodimer controls the production of those with side chains with seven or fewer carbons, and an ACOX-2 homodimer controls the production of those with ?-side chains with less than five carbons. Our results support a biosynthetic model in which ?-oxidation enzymes act directly on the CoA-thioesters of ascaroside biosynthetic precursors. Furthermore, we identify environmental conditions, including high temperature and low food availability, that induce the expression of acox-2 and/or acox-3 and lead to corresponding changes in ascaroside production. Thus, our work uncovers an important mechanism by which C. elegans increases the production of the most potent dauer pheromones, those with the shortest side chains, under specific environmental conditions.